Urban Land Interests has proposed a development at the site of the former Associated Bank on Monroe Street that the neighborhood association calls an “undeniably beautiful and high-quality building.”
But even so, neighborhood association representatives said they can’t support the project, because five stories is too tall for the area. But they like the developer, and don't oppose the project either.
Height is a sticking point for the project at 1720 Monroe St., which will appear before the city’s Plan Commission on Monday seeking rezoning and a demolition permit. There's general neighborhood and alder support, but city staff didn’t recommend approval of the project. ULI said a shorter building isn’t financially viable.
The site is currently home to a one-story building with a surface parking lot.
The proposed building would have 16,345 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and 65 apartment units in the four floors above. The commercial space would host four tenants. Plans call for an underground parking garage with 70 spaces as well as 14 surface spaces.
The target audience for the apartments includes nearby residents looking to downsize and young families starting out.
In November, Ald. Sara Eskrich said she’s heard fewer height concerns than she usually does in residential neighborhoods, and any concerns “seem to be more about the context and how it fits into adjoining properties.” Anne Neujahr Morrison, with ULI, said the height hadn’t “come up as a major issue” and pointed out that Monroe Commons, a condominium building across the street, is also five stories.
But earlier this month, the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association wrote that its members and nearby residents were “deeply concerned” about the five stories. The association can’t support the proposal, the letter said, because the five-story height sets a bad precedent for the area and is too drastic in the context of neighboring single-family homes.
But the neighborhood association also doesn’t oppose the project, because the redevelopment of the site is inevitable (“we do not want a vacant lot in our neighborhood any more than anyone else does”) and they believe “ULI very well may be the best possible development partner for this location at this time.”
“ULI has approached the proposal process and engaged with us and the immediate neighbors is nothing short of exemplary and should be considered a model for other developers in the city,” the letter states.
The city staff isn’t sure the project meets the standards for land use permits and pointed out that the height is in opposition to four-story recommendations in the city’s comprehensive plan and Monroe Street plan. But city staff noted that the Monroe Street plan also allows for exceptions to the four-story maximum.
Height is "the one significant remaining concern" with the development, Eskrich wrote in a recent letter to the Plan Commission. She said she supports the project, and believes it should be approved. Eskrich said the unique site won't set a bad precedent for future development along Monroe Street and said "generally, neighborhood feedback has been overwhelmingly positive."
Owners of Orange Tree Imports, across the street at 1721 Monroe St., wrote in support of the project, saying “it is time to put this lot to better use.”
“Businesses draw shoppers and diners to an area, and residents become regular customers. A new mixed use development will be a real asset to the existing shops, restaurants and service businesses on Monroe Street,” the letter reads.
Associated Bank has plans to move into an under-construction development a little further up the street at 1605 Monroe St.